Virologists to Americans: Get Your Flu Shot This Year
Experts say the combination of the coronavirus and the flu this fall and winter could exacerbate the strain on the U.S. public health system, which is struggling already.
Memphis, Tennessee — As the number of coronavirus cases tops 5 million in the U.S. and the potential for a dual influenza and COVID-19 season this fall, virology experts with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are strongly encouraging Americans to get a flu shot as soon as it becomes available in September.
“The combination of both the coronavirus and influenza virus swirling together throughout the U.S. this fall and winter has the potential to exacerbate the strain on an already struggling public health system,” warns Richard Webby, Ph.D., flu virologist at St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the World Health Organization in a press release on Thursday. “The two viruses cause initial symptoms that are difficult to distinguish, have their biggest effect on the elderly and those with similar underlying conditions, and, at the severe end of the disease spectrum, cause competition for similar life-saving hospital equipment.
“Let me state this as clearly and unambiguously as possible: get the flu shot starting in September. Don’t wait for reports of a spike in the influenza virus before taking advantage of the vaccine. Getting the flu shot at the beginning of the season allows for the time needed to build up immunity and protection from this year’s influenza virus,” Webby told CNN.
Earlier this week, the University of California (UC) system issued a system-wide executive order requiring UC students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated for the flu by November 1.
“By trying to decrease as many hospitalizations for flu, we can use fewer ICU beds and hospital beds and save them for COVID patients, which we will need in the winter for sure,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco told KRON 4.
Even though the symptoms for the flu and coronavirus can look the same, the diseases are different, and the vaccine for the flu is not the same as the vaccines that are still being developed for COVID-19.